Boundaries for Dummies

Today begins a weeklong series on Boundaries.

Before we jump in, let’s take a minute and define boundaries and then we can talk about how to apply this to life and relationships.

Psychologically speaking, a boundary is like a property line. It denotes the beginning and end of something. A boundary takes on spatial, behavioral, verbal and personal space characteristics as it pertains to relationships.

These types of boundaries are intangible but take shape in the form of beliefs, perceptions, convictions, and understandings.

Boundaries are not an excuse to live behind an impenetrable wall like a hermit in order to avoid being hurt in relationship.
Boundaries are not designed to keep people isolated and alone or to be used in retaliation to intentionally hurt another person.

When personal boundaries are established and enforced in a healthy manner, they help to facilitate mutual respect and trust while creating a sense of “other-ness” within the relationship.

Boundaries that are too loose lead to being walked on like a door mat and boundaries that are too strict leave you secluded, unreachable and alone.

In typical boundary violations, it is commonly the offender who denies, justifies or blames others for the boundary crossing. These violations can range from trivial to severe and over time can be debilitating and destructive to the relationship.

I’m sure we all have many examples of times when someone close to us violated, disrespected or ignored our personal boundaries.

Here are just a few examples.

Interrupting someone after they ask you not to
Willfully intruding on someone’s privacy without permission
Telling others personal information that someone asked you to keep private
Spending significant money without consulting your partner
“Forgetting” your partner’s request that you call if you’ll be working late

I recently had a conversation with a friend who said she has a hard time with boundaries. Not the concept of boundaries so much, but the implementation of them.

My friend is relational to the core and a people pleaser. She has lived most of her life being manipulated and managed by people who have taken advantage of her.
In her mind enforcing her personal boundaries felt offensive to who she is as a “people person”.

So this begs the question, can I be a “Christian” and have boundaries?

In a word, YES.

Psalm 16 is reflective of a life lived within the boundary lines that were established by God for a holy life. David sings about living within the boundaries assigned by the Lord and the rest and peace that come with staying within those boundaries.

When we live and operate within the boundary lines with God and others we are able to rest secure knowing that we are responding to one another in a manner that is pleasing to the Lord and is appropriate and respectful for the individuals involved.

I hope you will stop by the couch this week, as we will be talking about boundaries as it relates to kids, social media, online interactions, parent/child relationships, marriage and all the spaces in between.

How have you experienced your boundaries being violated and how did you feel when it happened?

Grace & Peace ~ Karen


9 thoughts on “Boundaries for Dummies

  1. cindy holman says:

    Yes – many times.  I was betrayed by a good friend who took personal information written in emails to use against me – when I felt safe with this person and had confided some things not meant for anyone else to see.  It was devastating.  So I know all about abusing boundaries and how it betrays trust big time.  I try to be careful about them – but I’m not perfect and I’m sure I don’t always succeed.  But one thing I know for sure – it has made me very sensitive to others and more cautious who I let into my world.

    • KAREN COOK says:

      Cindy – I’m sorry that you have experienced that type of betrayal. I think when you have been hurt by a boundary violation it often times helps you yourself become more sensitive to others and who you let in. Prov. 4:23 Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of Life.

  2. Danie Marie says:

    Wow Karen, you hit the nail on the head for me today, especially your fourth bullet. Last week I had a discussion with my hubby about that very thing. He’s done that to me for 38 years… Lord willing, he’ll be more respectful in the future. In fact, it’s only been in the last several years that I realized how many times I’ve been stomped on by a certain family member, taken the bull by the horns, so to speak, and have him react exactly like you talked about; denied and justification. Sometimes we can only to do what’s necessary and then leave the results to the Lord.
    Blessings ~ Danie

    • KAREN COOK says:

      Danie – Unfortunately it is often the people we are closest to who hurt us the most and cross our boundaries by assuming that it is permissible. There is the old saying “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission”….I personally think that is a crock of …..well you know.

  3. Marni Arnold says:

    I began to learn about boundaries after I went through Celebrate Recovery for my postpartum depression; for in CR, I discovered I had far deeper issues that needed resolution that all surrounded poor boundaries.

    I was co-dependent (seeking worth in and through others), depressed and angry. I’m still learning to tackle the anger side of things, as I’ve recently put in place a very defined boundary with my parents. But go figure that in defining this boundary with them, I now need to also define it with myself…between who I am in Christ, and my natural (sinful) self; for I’ve discovered that my anger is far more easily triggered lately as I created a physical boundary between me and the source of where I learned anger from. Because anger was taught to me through the example of my parents, it became an engrained part of my natural (behavioral) self through an environmental factor; and now distancing myself from it physically…I find myself tempted by it deeply and I struggle some days to choose Him over my natural self. He is helping me win the battle, but some days are far more challenging than others.

    You’ve nailed it in this post Karen. Healthy boundaries are truly essential to implement into our lives…especially as Christians because if we never create them or enforce them physically, we’ll never learn how to implement them even within ourselves concerning the two sides of us that always exist (the creations He made us to be, and our sinful natures). And we need to understand where our boundaries are even in ourselves so we can live out the purpose He created us to live out…and the only way to start this process (even though at first we’ll have temptations to fall into our natural selves in the beginning of boundary setting), is to set them physically with others (even people close to us).

    Thank you for setting up this series. I am looking forward to hearing everyone else’s voices concerning this very necessary topic.

    • KAREN COOK says:

      Thanks Marni – I appreciate your perspective and your candor. Boundaries are hard with our parents. I hope that as you continue to work on this area that you are able to recognize the triggers that lead you to respond in anger and that you are able to be gracious with yourself as you process this. Thanks friend…I am also looking forward to the conversations this week.

  4. Tracee says:

    LOVE how you defined boundaries! cannot wait to see/hear other people’s experiences with boundaries or lack there of!

    hoping you are loving time with your family!

    • karencook says:

      Hi Janet,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog post. I am currently in the process of changing over my theme etc. so I have not been as active as I usually am. Let me know if you have any questions. Thanks again for coming by.


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